The “new normal”
Grief has been an emotion felt globally for a wide spectrum of losses – daily routines, in-person human interaction, employment and businesses, financial stability, self-esteem, friendships, societal cohesion, trust in institutions and each other, and, unfortunately, loss of life, and on a grand scale.
This year has made clear that our body, mind, and spirit are inextricably intertwined and that each needs to be nurtured.
6 out of 10 Americans have a chronic condition (4 out of 10 have two or more), and 40% are obese. Unfortunately, individuals falling into these categories are at greater risk of COVID-related complications and death. However, there is much under our control.
Thankfully, it frequently is the case the potential exists to prevent or mitigate the impact of these health issues by taking action to optimize our health and well-being.
We have seen with greater immediacy the benefits of healthy eating, physical activity, adequate sleep, and stress management.
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If we don’t engage in self-care, we have tragically been made more aware of the risks we run today, tomorrow, and in the future.
Uncertainty always surrounds us. We never know how a moment in life will define us.
Taking steps today to learn how to embrace uncertainty as a positive experience rather than one filled with apprehension, stress, and perhaps anger will make you stronger for the next uncertain moment.
We can’t predict the future, but we can control the experience when forced to accept a “new normal.” We need a strong mind, body, and spirit.
Mental health impact
A positive consequence of all that has happened in 2020 is that emotional health has had equal (and often greater) standing to physical health for those of us for whom COVID-19 has not had a physically devastating or even fatal impact.
Mental health issues have moved further out of the shadows, and the gradual reduction in the stigma historically attributed to mental health conditions has advanced with greater momentum.
We see daily the toll the pandemic takes on those on the frontlines and must face the likelihood that many providing care to those hospitalized with COVID-19 are suffering or will eventually suffer from PTSD.
And for the rest of us, with the escalating increase in the rates of loneliness, depression, anxiety, alcohol and other substance use disorders as well as suicide, we have finally admitted that we are not immune to emotional distress. And that it is OK to not be OK.
We have seen in a very raw way that life is often not fair and witnessed the many longstanding inequities which exist and determine the destiny of millions, no matter the talents they have to offer the world.
We have learned how willing we are, or are not, to look away and/or deny the suffering of others.
Reflecting on the positives in life
2020 has taught us how fragile life can be and how much grit and resilience we have to survive and sometimes even thrive, when there seems to be no reason for hope.
There are “hidden” blessings even amidst the frustration and uncertainty.
We have witnessed just how much some are willing to sacrifice to help others and to make the world a more compassionate and equitable place for all of us. We have observed the power of collaboration turbocharged by a deep and abiding sense of purpose.
We have been reminded of the many heroes who walk among us every day and how everything we do has an impact, whether or not we ever see it ourselves. We have the ability to make someone’s day or add to the burdens of a life that is crushing them. And we have learned anew that inaction is not only an action in and of itself, but also one that can be deadly.
“The thoughtful little things we do each day have an accumulated effect on all our tomorrows.”
~ Alexandra Stoddard
Our values have been tested and confronted in ways we may have never experienced before. We have had to internally assess our beliefs, our generosity of spirit, our character, our basic humanity, and common decency. We have had to make decisions about how willing we are to walk our talk, even when it may mean personal sacrifice, lead to a backlash or ostracism within social circles, and even threats to our lives.
Moving forward amid frustration
COVID-19 is “super-surging.” It continues to threaten both our way of life and our very lives, as well as those we love. Frustration is on the surge too. Now is not the time to allow those emotions to control us. Mental and emotional strength is more important now than at any other point in this pandemic.
The portfolio of ways to help protect ourselves and gain sustainable control of the virus has been expanded by vaccines on the horizon and a growing body of knowledge that enables more effective treatment.
We have a choice about how we move forward and the opportunity to think through what we would like the “new normal” to look like. Although we may have often felt helpless, 2020 has taught us we have more power than we might have imagined. Our future will be determined by how we decide to use it.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” ~ Abe Lincoln